“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
Sylvester Stallone (Actor & Director; Rocky Balboa)
“If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”
Sheryl Sandberg (CEO; Facebook)
“Leap and the net will appear.”
John Burroughs (Essayist; Notes on Walt Whitman)
Life hits hard. Be awesome anyway.
I was slapped in the face really hard once in middle school by a girl I had a crush on. You never get used to getting slapped in the face. At least I don’t think so. Maybe there’s people out there who get slapped in the face for a living. They might get used to it. But probably not.
I have no idea why she slapped me in the face. I think it was because I finally told her how much I liked her and that I wanted her to be my girlfriend. I don’t know if you’ve ever been slapped in the face before but it stings really bad and dumbfounds you at the same time. All the blood rushes to your head and your mouth hangs open because your teeth are rattling.
The worst part was she slapped me in front of about a hundred other middle school kids in the quad after lunch. A bunch of the kids started laughing and I just stood there because there’s nothing you can do after someone slaps you in the face. You have to just stand there like a moron. There’s no contingency plan. Even if a guy slaps you there’s nothing you can do. You can’t punch a guy who slaps you because it’s just a slap. Maybe you can slap him back but that’s it.
After I came to my senses, I wanted to disappear forever or at least go home sick. Instead, I hid in the bathroom for the rest of lunch. I tried to shake it off and get over it but I didn’t know how. I didn’t have the tools back then. The slap was all anyone talked about for the rest of the week. The kids in my classes kept looking at me and whispering. I don’t blame them though. I probably would have done the same thing. I don’t blame the girl who slapped me either. It wasn’t her fault. She probably saw someone do it on TV or in a movie and just thought that’s what girls do to guys. I just wish I would’ve known how to get over it faster.
Life Hits Hard
Life is going to slap you around. These slaps are going to sting and make you look stupid. In many cases, you’ll feel like you don’t have any options. When this happens, the first thing you should focus on is regulating your emotions. That’s where you start. Don’t lash out and try to slap life back. Don’t cry and complain either. There’s a better way to get revenge.
The two most common ways for people to regulate their emotions are reappraisal (changing the way you think about an emotional event) and suppression (changing the way you respond behaviorally to an emotional event). Both methods are better than complaining but lots of studies show that reappraisal has more benefits than suppression. People who reappraise emotional situations make better decisions moving forward, function better socially, and have a better sense of their overall wellbeing. These people also have better emotional profiles later in life.
When my middle school crush slapped me in the face, the first meaning I gave it was that she hated me, God hated me, and really everyone hated me. Now, I realize that she was just a kid. She probably saw someone else do it and wanted to be cool. I don’t know if that meaning is true but its just as likely and it serves me a lot better than thinking that the world hates me. This is how reappraisal works.
Never Be A Victim
Your brain can only think about one thing at a time. It’s true. So give it good things to think about. If something bad happens and you train yourself to immediately think that it’s not personal and it’s only temporary then you won’t be able to think that life isn’t fair and everyone hates you. This will keep you from feeling like a victim. Which is good because victims are never awesome. They’re anti-awesome.
The only way to never be a victim is to always choose a positive meaning for the things that happen to you. Once you choose a positive meaning, you can take action to make yourself feel awesome again. Everyone’s dream—the life everyone is chasing—is one where they always feel awesome. They want to feel happy, successful, fulfilled, confident, connected, and significant all at once. People have different definitions for what it means to be awesome and some people might use a different word like amazing or enlightened but it’s all the same.
Are You Above Feeling Good?
Most people will only let themselves feel awesome if they achieve some really big goal. Until then, they’re not allowed to feel awesome. And once they do achieve their goal, they can only feel awesome for a day before they have to stop. Some people will never let themselves feel awesome because they’re afraid that as soon as they do the heavens will strike them down for being arrogant.
Acknowledging that you’re awesome is not arrogance. It’s humility. To be awesome you have to lower yourself to happiness. Stop placing yourself above feeling happy. Are you too good to be happy? Are your problems so extreme that you can’t feel awesome? Who do you think you are? Let yourself be awesome. You’re not above it or below it.
How To Be Awesome
Life will slap the crap out of you from time to time. But you can deal with it. Just remember to regulate your emotions and give whatever happened a productive meaning. Then take action to put yourself back in the driver’s seat because that’s where awesome people belong. You might not feel awesome at first but act anyway. Be awesome before you feel awesome and you will eventually feel awesome too. Here are 7 strategies that will help you do this:
1. Go about your business.
People only see what you show them. Just because you’re freaking out in your brain doesn’t mean everyone can see you freaking out. I learned this when I first started public speaking. I used to get so nervous that I would throw up and have to do jumping jacks in the bathroom before going on stage. But then a really experienced speaker told me that people can only see 5% of your nerves. I think he made up the statistic but the principle is right.
People can’t see your nerves. They can’t see any of your emotions either. You could be having a full blown panic attack and most people wouldn’t notice. They might notice you leave the room or talk a little less but that’s it. People are never really paying attention to you, even if you’re on stage in front of them. They’re paying attention to themselves. Remember this when life slaps you in the face.
Don’t pretend there’s a big spotlight on you. There’s not. Move on. Get through your day as usual. If the event is still a big deal at the end of the day, then you reflect on it.
2. Say what you shouldn’t say.
Bottling everything up, or suppressing your emotions, is not awesome. It’s anti-awesome. Doing this will keep you feeling stressed and alone. Don’t assume that other people know what’s bothering you. Don’t guess that they have the same internal rules and beliefs as you or that they gave an event the same meaning that you did. Instead, ask. Open up and tell other people how you feel and what you’re thinking. Have one-on-one conversations with as many people as you can to until you get a handle on what happened.
Be proactive. Don’t isolate yourself and replay some story in your head about how everyone is conspiring against you. You’re not that special. Not everyone thinks about things the same way you do. You have to talk to others to find out what they think. Open up and speak your mind, then listen to others speak their minds. This is the road to feeling awesome again.
3. Focus on results, not yourself.
An experiment in the Netherlands tested 313 children for self-esteem and then had them play a fixed computer game that forced the children to win or lose and then gave them either praise for their efforts or praise for themselves. In the group where the children were praised for their personal qualities, the webmaster wrote, “Wow, you’re great!”, while the children who were praised for their efforts were told, “Wow, you did a great job!”
After either winning or losing the game, the children were told to complete a survey about their feelings of shame. Compared to all of the other groups, children who lost the game experienced significantly higher levels of shame if they had been praised for their personal qualities versus their efforts. The researchers concluded that focusing on results over personal qualities keeps people from associating their self-worth with failure or success.
What does this mean for you? It means that when the crap hits the fan, you should focus on what happened, the circumstances, and what you can learn from it all, not how you should have done things differently and how the circumstances were against you. You experienced a bad result. That’s all. Sure, take responsibility—don’t shuck it to someone else—but don’t wallow in it either. Stay focused on the bottom line and how you can change it. This will keep you in an awesome state of mind.
4. Be inappropriate.
There’s not one piece of scientific evidence showing that people who have fun are less ambitious, less serious about their work, or less successful in general. But there’s a lot of data showing that fun people are more creative, more productive, and live longer. So when the going gets tough, lighten up. Break free from always trying to be perfect or appropriate.
When life slaps you down, make a joke. Finding something funny, interesting, or unique about a situation will help you get present and stop thinking about “what ifs.” You might think that being cheerful in distress is sophomoric or some kind of New Age fluff but it’s not. It’s strategic.
A 14-year experiment by researchers at University College of London followed more than 15,000 individuals from high school to their late twenties (1994 – 2008). Throughout the study, participants filled out surveys and answered interview questions about their overall well-being and how many times certain statements like “You enjoyed life” and “You were happy” were true for the previous week. Accounting for genetics, health, education and IQ, the researchers found a clear link between happiness and higher salaried positions as adults.
When things go south, get present by finding something funny. This will help both your mood and your career climb north.
5. Make 10 snap decisions.
Decisiveness and awesomeness go hand-in-hand. The worst thing you can do in a difficult situation is not make any decisions about how to move forward. Studies show that suffering a defeat of any kind can temporarily decrease testosterone and dopamine levels in your body, which are both important for decision-making. This is why it’s so easy to get depressed and mope around after a negative event.
You might think that taking some time to be still and do nothing is wise after a defeat, but it’s not. It’s foolish. Doing nothing after a negative event allows that event to gain momentum. Have you ever had something bad happen to you early in the day and then have several other bad things happen to you that same day? Most people brush this off as “having one of those days.” In reality, you’ve let that first negative event gain momentum by doing nothing.
The next time a negative event puts you in a funk, force yourself to make 10 bold decisions right away. Seriously—get out a piece of paper and write down 10 decisions and then execute. Contrary to popular belief, the best time to make a bold decision is right after a negative event. The fear and hurt you feel after something negative happens will balance out your decision—it will make your decision centered and on point.
The worst time to make a bold decision is after a big win, not a crushing loss. After a win, you’re too cocky. Your testosterone and dopamine levels are soaring. But after a loss, these levels are low, which allows you to be supremely rational. Plus, the act of making a bunch of snap decisions will get your self-esteem going in the right direction again. Just like smiling when you’re not happy will make you happy, executing bold decisions when you’re not confident will make you confident.
6. Save someone’s day (without permission).
Think of someone really awesome in your life (it’s okay if you think of yourself). What makes that person awesome? The car they drive? How much money they have in the bank? No, probably not. There are plenty of non-awesome creeps out there with nice cars and big bank accounts.
More than anything else, awesomeness comes down to a single attitude—not needing anything from anyone but being able to give everything to everyone. That’s it. This is the state that most people are pursuing, whether they know it or not. How awesome would life be if you were completely autonomous from everyone and completely connected to everyone at the same time?
Most of human life is spent trying to feed two conflicting needs—autonomy and connection. Think about it. You want to stand out but you also want to fit in. You want to do things your way but not at the expense of others. Can you ever completely fulfill your need for autonomy and your need for connection at the same time? I don’t know. But I do know you practice fulfilling both of these needs at the same time by helping people unexpectedly without expecting anything in return.
If someone’s car breaks down in the middle of the road, get out and help them push it to the curb and then leave without making them stumble through an awkward thank you. You don’t need praise. Praise is for the other guy. If someone drops something, rush to pick it up. If you see weakness in a situation and you’re capable of adding strength to it—step in. You’re smart enough to know whether or not the other person is just looking for a handout.
Most people only step in to save the day after weighing their options and asking permission. Can I help you with that? Do you need a hand? Stop asking. Take charge. Save the day. Do it for no reason and without waiting around to be praised for it. That’s as awesome as it gets.
7. Start a resistance-free project.
Feeling awesome can be hard. This is because you and the world are incompatible. You, like all human beings, are made of matter and energy, but mostly energy. This energy flows just like electricity. When your energy is flowing, life is great. You feel on top of the world. You feel awesome. But, when your energy is not flowing, you feel stuck—immobile and miserable.
The world is full of resistors. Remember in physics how some objects like metal conduct electricity and others like wood resist it. Objects that resist energy are called resistors. Negative people, fake friends, bad bosses, disinformation, prejudice, poverty, groupthink, industry gate-keepers, bloated institutions, foolish traditions—all of these things are resistors. They’re constantly working against you, trying to keep you dependent on them for progress. This dependence blocks your energy from flowing.
The best way to fight resistance in one part of your life is by starting a resistance-free project in another part of your life. Start something that doesn’t require anyone or anything else—something that will allow you to flow at full speed. This will give you a taste of what life can be like without any resistance. Pour your energy into this new project until it starts to trickle into other parts of your life. Eventually, your flow will become so powerful that it will take over every other part of your life. You’ll go from feeling blocked and helpless, to feeling mobile, powerful, and awesome.
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